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Prosecutor Won’t Contest Doomsday Mom’s Incompetency Claim

The Daily Beast logo The Daily Beast 6/7/2021 Justin Rohrlich
a group of people standing next to a person: John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP © Provided by The Daily Beast John Roark/The Idaho Post-Register via AP

An Idaho prosecutor has decided not to contest a court’s finding that doomsday mom Lori Vallow isn’t competent to stand trial for the murder of two of her children in her current mental state.

The about-face by Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood means that Vallow will undergo treatment until the court finds she is fit to stand trial—while the case against her fifth husband and co-defendant Chad Daybell, who is also charged with killing his first wife, proceeds.

Vallow—an end-times prepper who reportedly believed 7-year-old J.J. Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan were possessed by demons—will now undergo psychological counseling during a 90-day “pause” in the proceedings against her. There is no insanity defense in Idaho.

Through his office, Wood declined to comment on his decision. Mark Means, the defense attorney representing Vallow, did not respond to a request for comment.

Phillip Hamilton, a criminal defense attorney in New York City who is not involved with the case, said he didn’t know the extent of Vallow’s mental issues, but noted that “you can’t be given a fair trial if you don't understand mentally what’s going on.”

He pointed out that putting a case on hold to restore a defendant to competency can be helpful to the prosecution in certain ways.

“The prosecution has a lot to prepare for in this case, so sometimes It can buy them a little extra time,” Hamilton said, adding, “To the extent that a licensed medical professional found her not competent, the prosecution has an interest in not giving her a chance to appeal if she’s convicted—you want all of the loopholes closed.”

J.J. and Tylee disappeared in October 2020. Cops said Vallow and Daybell, a doomsday author whose Mormon-centered books delve into near-death experiences and armageddon, lied to investigators about the children’s whereabouts and left Idaho for Hawaii rather than help with the search.

Vallow had been widowed less than three months earlier, when her fourth husband, Charles, was shot by her brother, who also later died. Police at first believed Vallow’s brother had fired in self-defense during a family dispute; cops later alleged Vallow played a role in his death but she was not charged. However, both Vallow and Daybell are facing charges in the death of Daybell’s first wife, Tammy, who died mysteriously just weeks before Vallow and Daybell got married.

According to the indictment, prosecutors believe Vallow and Daybell killed Tylee in September 2019, after nearly a year of planning. The duo allegedly killed J.J. about two weeks later. His body was found in Daybell’s Rexburg yard, wrapped in black plastic with his head, arms, and feet bound with duct tape. Tylee’s body was found in a pet cemetery on the property, described in the indictment as “a mass of burnt flesh and charred bone.”

On May 25, almost a year after the remains were found, the couple was indicted on first-degree murder and conspiracy charges. The indictment said the couple’s “religious beliefs” were used to justify the killing of the kids, and that Lori and Chad sent text messages to each other expressing their belief that Tammy Daybell was in “Limbo...and being possessed by a spirit named Viola.”

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